A Timing Belt, also known as a Cambelt, is an essential component of most engines on the road today. It's critical purpose is to keep the engine perfectly timed and in sequence. It keeps the camshaft and crank timed as it should be. Overlooking this maintenance item your vehicle and not having the Timing Belt / Cambelt replaced at the correct interval means that over time the wear could cause damage and the belt snapping would cause catastrophic engine damage.
What is a Cambelt / Timing Belt?
It is essentially a sturdy rubber belt with teeth which keep the camshaft and crankshaft in time. It regulates the opening and closing of the valves and cylinders. It is vital to ensure the engine runs properly.
Some vehicles run on Timing Chains. As the difference in names suggest, the material they are made from is the biggest difference. Timing Chains are located inside the engine, whereas Cambelts / Timing Belts are external. Timing Belts do not have a. replacement. interval, but they can wear over time and need replacing too. Some manufacturers are also using "wet belts" which are located within the engine.
It's good to know if your vehicle has a belt or a chain so that you can plan maintenance.
How do I know when my Cambelt / Timing Belt should be replaced?
This important maintenance should be done at certain age/mileage (whichever comes first) intervals depending on the manufacturer and their specification for your specific make and model. Check your handbook to find this information, or contact your regular garage.
If you are not sure if your car's Cambelt / Timing Belt has already been replaced on time, check your service records and any invoices regarding work completed by previous owners. Also make a note of when in the it needs doing in the future so that you don't forget.
Cars are designed to have more than one Timing Belt / Cambelt change in its lifetime, so this should be treated as planned maintenance rather than waiting until it fails.
Buying a used vehicle?
If you are looking for a new car, it is important for you to find out if this has been done. The seller should have the car's service history and records. If this hasn't been done, or its due soon, it is something you should factor into the price of the vehicle as you will need to do it immediately to ensure your new vehicle is safe.
It's also worth remembering that although this can be an expensive job, it will also help your car hold value when the time comes to sell it.
How do I know if my Cambelt / Timing Belt is ok?
Regular servicing should help reduce your risks as a good garage will advise and recommend the correct work for your vehicle based on age/mileage.
Usually, you will have no warning if the Cambelt / Timing Belt is about to fail. There is no warning light to tell you there is an issue. It is rare for people to state that the heard any rattle or noise prior to failure. However, some do hear noises from the engine. If you have breakdown cover, it is best to contact them at this point and not attempt to drive the car.
Timing Belts / Cambelts are not checked as part of an MOT test.
What happens if you don't change your Cambelt / Timing Belt?
If you don't have this done, you run the risk of seriously damaging the engine, and a few hundreds pounds worth of work turns into several thousands of pounds.
Although Timing Belts / Cambelts are made from an incredibly strong rubber and it is designed to withstand enormous stresses, over time, the belt will eventually deteriorate, wear and lose strength. This can cause the fraction of a second timing intervals to jump.
If the Cambelt / Timing Belt snaps when you are driving, the engine could seize and make the vehicle impossible to control. Without full control of steering and brakes you are in a very dangerous situation. Just being broken down could leave you in a seriously vulnerable position by the side of the road.
How much does replacing a Cambelt / Timing Belt cost?
The replacement costs including parts and labour can vary from around £250 to £600 for most vehicles, going upwards of that for luxury brands.
Replacing the Timing Belt / Cambelt takes several hours of work, so the majority of the cost is in the labour.
There are a few things to make sure when asking for a quote for your Cambelt / Timing Belt - check the price includes everything. You need to know that the belt, tensioners, water pump, labour and vat is included. It is also a good idea to change auxiliary belts at the same time if they need to be removed to complete the work.
Most garages will recommend you have water pump changed at the same time as this is best practice and usually included in the kit the garage will order for your car. This is because your water pump is driven by the Timing Belt / Cambelt and it is also a wearing part. With the bulk of the cost of this replacement being labour, it just makes good financial sense to replace the water pump at the same time too.
Garages will also have a range in quality of the parts they can supply for your car. You could have a genuine dealer part, or opt for cheaper aftermarket parts.
Need more advice?
Simply call us on 01636 550852 for a chat about your car's needs and we will be happy to advise you.
We can also offer 0% finance on car repairs (subject to acceptance) through Payment Assist. This helps you spread payments out for up to 4 installments at no extra cost.